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Silver Palate chocolate cake

Updated: Sat, 11 December, 2021

Silver Palate chocolate cake is not an eighties throwback – it’s the perfect chocolate cake and a perfect birthday cake material.

silver palate chocolate cake

The Silver Palate Cookbook, a dinner party bible born in the US in the 80s is the source of this recipe. It didn't mean much to me when I first saw the recipe in NY Times Cooking (wrong age, wrong country), but I'm always on the lookout for a good chocolate cake. Who isn’t after all?

What makes a good chocolate cake?

As much as I detest the word and have been actively campaigning to replace it with ‘wet’, ‘juicy’ or ‘damp’, a good chocolate cake needs to be moist. Dry and crumbly won’t pass muster, too fudgy and it’s a brownie – it must be just the right degree of gooeyness.

It should be reasonably easy to make. Therein lies part of the secret, I think: butter melted with chocolate, some cocoa as well for a good measure with a bit of water, flour scant and nonchalantly whisked in.

But there should be a bit of a challenge too, like separating eggs and beating the whites for an airy boost. After all, too easy will make you think you’ve not tried hard enough for a birthday – because this recipe is also the perfect canvas for a birthday cake.

chocolate cake from silver palate cookbook

Silver Palate cake – the best birthday cake material

It’s a revelation: a shortcut to the best birthday cake ever. And I certainly know what I’m talking about: I’ve made this twice in the space of two days, because one hardly yielded enough to satisfy the well-wishers for my father-in-law’s 90th birthday.

Ninetieth birthday – I can’t quite imagine being that age. I’m – ahem – quite old in my perception, but NINETY!

Geez, that’s having been around for the Great War – almost. That’s having been conscripted for the WW2. That’s – as the birthday boy never fails to point out – being in Egypt with the PoWs.

That's making it to Berlin in 1945, seeing off the Cold War, going through the birth of NHS, Harold Wilson’s failures and victories, Thatcher years, the lot.

Am I going to live as long? Will I say one day I’ve been through the Zuckerberg years? The Trump era? The robot rebellion (or something like it)?

Anyway – the birthday boy approved of my chocolate cake. Regardless of his son’s disparaging guidance: ‘Just give him chocolate and cream. As sweet as it can go’, he definitely knows quality.

Someone who’s lived through rationing, the suet puddings, the saltless vegetables boiled to death, the ‘foreign muck’ that would sometimes turn out ‘really tasty’ will know what’s good and what’s not. My chocolate cake was deemed VERY GOOD. I basked in pride.

chocolate cake with chocolate frosting

How to make the Silver Palate chocolate cake?

It ticks all my chocolate cake boxes: it’s easy, but not too easy. The base batter is made in a saucepan, with melted butter, chocolate, cocoa and sugar. When it cools down, egg yolks are whisked in followed by cream and the dry ingredients.

To give it lightness, egg whites beaten into stiff peaks are very gently folded into the runny batter.

It bakes into a handsomely cracked surface which is always the best thing about frosted or iced cakes as the frosting goes into the crevasses to make coveted pockets in every other slice.

how to bake the best chocolate cake

The chocolate frosting made with cream and butter is just gorgeous – the kind that slowly rolls and oozes down the sides of the cake, cleverly stopping to set just when it reaches the bottom.

Birthday cake variations

The frosting is more than enough to make a sumptuous cake but if you want to make it truly special and decadent, here’s how.

You can either divide the cake batter between two tins and limit the baking time to 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Or bake it as one, as instructed below, fully cool it down and then slice it horizontally in half. The latter is my preferred option because the filling in the middle melts into the crumb in a more cohesive way, rather than just sitting on the cake crust.

The middle filling can be the same as the frosting, for a triple chocolate hit. But I prefer to fill the cake with unsweetened whipped cream, only lightly flavoured with vanilla.

With fresh cream the cake needs to be stored in the fridge and will last up to four days. Without the cream it can be kept at room temperature for as long as it takes for it to vanish – which, I promise, is not long at all.

decadent chocolate cake with chocolate topping

More chocolate cake recipes

This is the famous and the secret Austrian Sacher torte or its tastealike, reasonably authentic.

For everyday chocolate cake cravings, this chocolate yoghurt cake is perfectly fitting.

The Swedes do it with white chocolate: white chocolate kladdkaka is one of my all-time favourites.

dark chocolate

More birthday cake recipes

This is an old school classic: red velvet cake with a cream cheese, mascarpone and whipped cream filling.

Fabulous and minimalistic: genoise sponge cake with blueberry and mascarpone frosting.

One cake to rule them all: dome cake with raspberry mousse, buttercream and white chocolate ganache, and it’s as glamorous as it sounds.

Silver Palate chocolate cake

Servings: 12Time: 2 hours
Rating: (1 reviews)


  • For the cake:
  • 115g (1 stick) butter
  • 85g (3 oz.) dark cooking chocolate, at least 70% cocoa
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250ml (1 cup) boiling water
  • 300g (1½ cups) sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 120ml (½ cup) sour cream
  • 250g (1¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons) plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • For the frosting:
  • 30g (2 tbsp.) butter
  • 125g (¾ cup) dark cooking chocolate, about 50% cocoa
  • 90g (6 tbsp.) double cream
  • 100g (1 scant cup) icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/gas 4. Prepare a 23cm (10in) cake tin by buttering the sides and bottom or lining it with parchment.

2. Break the chocolate into small pieces, dice the butter and place it in a large bowl. Add the cocoa, the vanilla and pour over the boiling water. Let it sit until melted, then add the sugar and stir to dissolve.

3. Add the egg yolks to the chocolate liquid and whisk them in, one by one. Stir the bicarbonate of soda into a bowl with the soured cream and whisk it into the chocolate mix. Stir the baking powder into the flour and add it to the bowl; whisk the mix until the lumps disappear.

4. Beat the egg whites till stiff peaks form. Add a third to the cake mix and stir it in; then fold the rest of the egg whites into the cake batter. It will be very runny.

5. Pour it into the prepared tin and bake for 50-55 minutes; until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

6. Cool in the tin for 30 minutes, unmold and cool completely (chill in the fridge if possible) before frosting.

7. Mix all the frosting ingredients in a saucepan and heat them up over low heat, whisking to combine. When it’s smooth and warm, pour it all over the top of the cake in spiral ribbons, letting the frosting trickle down the sides. Leave for an hour to set before cutting.

Originally published: Wed, 20 September, 2017

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Your comments

Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Cath - it is gorgeous! And so simple.
3 years ago
Cath Arkless-Pointon
i love this recipe!
3 years ago

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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